What Do Marines Say in Response to Semper Fi?


Marine #1: Semper Fi!
Marine #2: Semper Fi!
Marine #1: Semper Fi!
Marine #2: Oorah!

If this kind of exchange is common in your life, you’re probably a Marine. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s because you’re not a Marine. Regardless, it’s interesting to know more about the common phrase and learn the answer to the question, what do Marines say in response to Semper Fi?

Origins of Semper Fi

Semper Fi is a shortened version of Semper Fidelis, which is Latin for “always faithful” or “always loyal”. Semper Fidelis is the motto of the U.S. Marine Corps that was adopted in 1883 by Colonel Charles McCawley. It’s meant to signify the dedication and loyalty that Marines have for their country and fellow Marines, even after they become veterans.

Semper Fidelis is also the title of the official march of the U.S. Marine Corps composed by John Philip Sousa in 1889. The phrase is clearly of great importance to the Marines and in its shortened form, Semper Fi, it gained some steam in World War II and is now often used colloquially among Marines.

What Does Semper Fi Really Mean to Marines?

When asked to describe what Semper Fi means in a literal sense, many Marines find it hard to put into words. Sure – in general, it means always faithful, just like its Latin roots suggests, but in reality, Semper Fi means so much more than that.

According to a heartfelt article on USMC Life, a Marine veteran of Bougainville and Guam summed up Semper Fi briefly when he said; “When I first went in the Marines, I thought Semper Fidelis meant ‘Always Faithful’. A little later I thought it meant ‘Seventy-five dollars’ (when Marines were paid $21 a month), but after we went into combat on Bougainville, I found it actually meant ‘Hooray for me and screw you!’”

Apparently, this sentiment is spot on because Marines use Semper Fi in a variety of contexts.

Marines could greet each other with a hearty Semper Fi in the morning or two veterans crossing paths in an airport could shake hands, exchanging a solemn Semper Fi as a nod to their undeniable connection. It could also be the final goodbye spoken to a fallen friend: Semper Fi.

“It verbalizes esprit de corps and Gung Ho. It is a mindset, it is a perspective, a mentality, an attitude. It is a noun, an adjective, a verb, a modifier, a hyperbole. It expresses pride, anger, admiration, frustration, fear, resentment, sarcasm or snide.” – USMC Life

Overall, it’s a statement of brotherhood, used by, and only by, Marines.

How Marines Respond to Semper Fi

With so many reasons why a Marine might utter the classic motto, it begs the question, what do Marines say in response to Semper Fi?

In most instances, you’d just say Semper Fi in response. Even for proud parents, spouses, or siblings, if you’re greeted with Semper Fi while wearing Marines-related gear, answering with Semper Fi would be an appropriate response.

Of course, if you have the time, it’s good to explain that you’re a relative of a Marine, not a Marine yourself. Since saying Semper Fi is such a trademark of Marine culture, it’s almost sacrilegious to proclaim the phrase without being a Marine. Yet, if it’s said to you, saying Semper Fi in response would suffice as a sign of respect.

Another common response to Semper Fi is the Marine chant – “Oorah!” which is not to be confused with the “hooah!” of the Army or “hooyah!” of the Navy and Coast Guard. The “oorah” battle cry became popular in the U.S. Marine Corps during the 20th century and is certainly not to be mistaken for the cries in other branches of the military. It’s used as a verbal greeting or expression of enthusiasm and can also be a response to Semper Fi.

For more, check out our top 5 Marine Corps bases in the U.S.

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